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If Dickens was nineteenth-century London personified, Herman Melville was the quintessential American. With a historian’s perspective and a critic’s insight, award-winning author Andrew Delbanco marvelously demonstrates that Melville was very much a man of his era and that he recorded — in his books, letters, and marginalia; and in conversations with friends like Nathaniel Hawthorne and with his literary cronies in Manhattan — an incomparable chapter of American history. From the bawdy storytelling of Typee to the spiritual preoccupations building up to and beyond Moby Dick, Delbanco brilliantly illuminates Melville’s life and work, and his crucial role as a man of American letters.

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